The loneliness aspect is important, so providing an opportunity for people to get together creates a foundation for friendship, discussion and communication.Janet Toker, organiser of the South Cliffe Gardens Great Get Together
As someone who hailed from Batley and with a strong commitment to the idea that we have ‘more in common’ – Jo Cox’s life, beliefs and subsequent murder had a real impact on Janet Toker. Janet was compelled to do something to show her belief in what Jo stood for and, as a result, in 2017, she organised her first Great Get Together.
Seven years later, she found herself organising her fifth Great Get Together, having taken a short break during the Covid years. For Janet, the reason behind the events remains the same, “it’s the inspiration of Jo and what she stood for. She stood for what was needed. The loneliness aspect is important, so providing an opportunity for people to get together creates a foundation for friendship, discussion and communication”.
Initially, Janet ran the Great Get Together in her home in Scarborough, inviting neighbours, friends and others who came through the Great Get Together website, for tea, coffee, cake and a chance to have a chat. Over time, the event has grown from a few people to forty or fifty attendees and this year, for the first time, with the help and support of friends and family, Janet decided to move it to a larger venue; Beeforth’s Hive in South Cliffe Gardens in the town.
This placed the Great Get Together in a more central and open location at the heart of Scarborough, making it easier to engage the wider community and for people who hadn’t been invited to wander in and see what was happening. This was, for Janet, the real highlight of the year’s event; being able to bring new people in, to share Jo’s message with them, to explain why the Great Get Together is important and to engage them with the wider community.
Janet says she finds the Great Get Togethers a brilliant opportunity to discuss issues gently, as what Jo stood for leads naturally into conversations about common ground and a way to gently challenge people about their views. “It’s the communication and understanding that helps to break down barriers,” she adds.
In some ways, Janet’s Great Get Together may seem like something small; a cup of tea and cake in a garden, but its impact is far more than that. After chatting over a cuppa and a piece of cake, new connections have been forged, lifelong friendships have been made and Scarborough has come together around the idea that it has ‘more in common’.